Fatah Fades into Irrelevance

Nov. 22 2016

Next week, some 1,400 people will gather in Ramallah for the Fatah party’s Seventh General Congress. Fatah dominated the PLO for decades under the leadership of Yasir Arafat, and now controls the Palestinian Authority. But the organization, writes Elliott Abrams, has alienated most of the Sunni Arab countries that were once its patrons—and that have recently been improving their ties with Israel. It is also unpopular with its own people, and is poised to fade into irrelevance:

The apparatchiks gathered [for the congress] will elect members of the movement’s two most powerful bodies, the Central Committee and the Revolutionary Council. . . . [J]ust reflect for a moment over those names. . . . The terms are relics of the movement’s pro-Soviet past and of its birth during the cold war. And Fatah has completely failed to make the change to becoming a modern political party. The old Arafat machine remains a corrupt system dominated by a few aging figures, with Mahmoud Abbas, now age eighty-two—Palestinian Authority president, PLO chairman, and Fatah chairman—at the top.

Moreover, Fatah and the Palestinian Authority are completely at odds with the Arab world’s most important governments, in part over Abbas’s banning of his rival Mohammed Dahlan. . . .

Abbas, despite his age, has no plans to lay down the reins—ever. . . . Meanwhile, in the West Bank, the PA-PLO-Fatah system is increasingly repressive, destroying freedom of the press and using the PA security forces against perceived enemies.

Read more at Pressure Points

More about: Arab World, Fatah, Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian Authority, PLO, Politics & Current Affairs, Yasir Arafat

To Undermine Russian and Iranian Influence in Syria, the U.S. Must Go on the Offensive

March 22 2018

When Iranian-lead, pro-Assad forces attacked U.S. allies in Syria last month, they found themselves quickly overwhelmed by American firepower. The incident, writes Tony Badran, makes clear that the U.S. has the capability to push back against the Damascus-Tehran-Moscow axis. By taking a more aggressive approach while working closely with Israel, Badran argues, Washington can at once prevent Russia and Iran from cementing their control of Syria and avoid getting drawn into a wider conflict:

Israeli assets can augment U.S. capabilities considerably. A few days after the skirmish in Deir Ezzour in February, Iran flew a drone into Israeli air space. Israel responded by destroying the Iranian command center at the Tiyas military air base near Palmyra, and then proceeded to bomb a large number of Iranian and Assad-regime targets. The episode again underscored the vulnerability of Iran, to say nothing of the brittle Assad regime. Close coordination with Israel to expand this ongoing targeting campaign against Iranian and Hizballah infrastructure, senior cadres, and logistical routes, and amplifying it with U.S. assets in the region, would have a devastating effect on Iran’s position in Syria.

By going on the offensive, the U.S. will also strengthen Israel’s hand with Russia, reducing Jerusalem’s need to petition the Kremlin and thereby diminishing Moscow’s ability to position itself as an arbiter on Israeli security. For instance, instead of haggling with Russia to obtain its commitment to keep Iran five or seven kilometers away from the Israeli border, the U.S. could adopt the Israeli position on Iran’s entrenchment in Syria and assist Israel in enforcing it. Such a posture would have a direct effect on another critical ally, Jordan, whose role is of high importance in southern Syria and in the U.S. zone in the east.

Assad and Iran are the scaffolding on which the Russian position stands. Targeting them, therefore, undercuts Moscow and reduces its leverage. By merely forcing Russia to respect Israeli and Jordanian needs on the border, the U.S. would undermine Russia’s attempt, more generally, to leverage its position in Syria to make headway into the U.S. alliance system. In addition to adopting a more offensive military posture, the U.S. should also intensify the economic chokehold on Assadist Syria.

Read more at Caravan

More about: Hizballah, Iran, Israeli Security, Politics & Current Affairs, Russia, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy